Inter catch Juve at the top

MILAN: Three goals in the space of three minutes, two of them from Christian Vieri, gave Inter Milan a 3-1 win over Piacenza yesterday to keep them level at the top of Serie A with Juventus. 

Lazio’s title hopes faded as they were held to a goalless draw at home to Atalanta, while AS Roma’s poor season continued with a 2-1 loss at Udinese. 

Inter and Juventus share the lead on 48 points with AC Milan in third place on 43 points after their game at Torino on Saturday was abandoned in the 64th minute due to crowd trouble. 

Milan were leading 3-0 and if, as expected, the result stands they will have 46 points. 

Following the 3-1 win by Juventus at Como on Saturday the pressure was on Inter to keep up with the pace. 

Although they laboured throughout the first half they produced a blitz after the break. 

Gabriel Batistuta put Inter ahead, with his first goal for the club, turning in a low drive from Stephane Dalmat in the 64th minute. 

A minute later Vieri doubled the advantage as the Piacenza defence backed off and allowed the Italy striker room for a shot from the edge of the penalty area. 

The result was put beyond doubt in the 67th minute with Vieri’s 21st goal of the season, the burly striker slotting home from close range after good work from Domenico Morfeo. 

With an eye on Wednesday’s Champions League game with Barcelona, Inter coach Hector Cuper promptly substituted Vieri with Mohammed Kallon. 

Nine minutes from the end Kallon missed a penalty for Inter after he had been brought down in the area by Filippo Cristante. 

Piacenza grabbed a consolation goal just before the end through Dario Hubner. 

“It was very difficult for us in the first half as Piacenza did well and caused us some problems in midfield and we couldn’t provide the right service to Vieri and Batistuta,” said Cuper. 

“In the end our spirit came through though and allowed us to win the game.  

“It is not always possible to play at speed and some times you just have to try and benefit from the mistakes of your opponents,” said the Argentine. 

Lazio were on top throughout against Atalanta but were unable to convert their possession into chances with Claudio Lopez and Bernardo Corradi both wasting good opportunities. 

It was Lazio’s fourth consecutive draw and leaves them eight points behind the leaders while improving Atalanta extended their unbeaten run to nine games. 

Lazio coach Roberto Mancini said: “It is tough when teams come and defend against you – I don’t think they had a shot on goal. We did everything we could to try and win the game and I am satisfied with our efforts.” 

Roma have long since given up hope of contending for the title but now even a UEFA Cup qualifying slot is beginning to appear a challenge. 

Former Lazio defender Nestor Sensini put Udinese ahead in the 35th minute with a tap-in after Roma keeper Ivan Pelizzoli failed to deal with Marek Jankulowski corner. 

Vincenzo Montella brought Roma level eight minutes after the break following a superb run down the wing by Jonathan Zebina, which saw the Frenchman dance past four defenders. 

But Vincenzo Iaquinta grabbed the winner in the 72nd minute sliding in a low cross from Roberto Muzzi. Roma’s misery was compounded when Zebina was sent off in the 89th minute for a second bookable offence. 

A 76th minute Giuseppe Sculli goal gave struggling Modena a 1-0 win over fifth-placed Chievo, while Bologna ended a six-match winless run with a 2-0 success over Empoli. – Reuters 

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